Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Coconut Butter Thins + an announcement

Before I get started with another round of Tuesdays With Dorie, I want to give my fellow TWD bakers and my readers a heads-up:

In mid-April, I'm leaving for a work trip to Sweden. I'll be gone for almost two weeks, and working, on average, 12-15 hours a day. Needless to say my posting will be sporadic during this time! I'm aiming to get some scheduled posts ready to go for while I'm out of the country, but since I'll be so busy prepping for my big work event, I'm not certain that I'll have time.

I definitely won't have time to do much Tuesdays With Dorie baking this month. I'll try to make at least one recipe, but can't make any guarantees. So while I won't be around for part of April, don't forget about me - I'll be back to my regular TWD schedule in May, and back to my regular blogging schedule sooner.

Now, on with the show.

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, courtesy of Jayne of The Barefoot Kitchen Witch, is coconut butter thins. I have to admit that I wasn't terribly excited to make these based on the title alone, since I really don't like shortbread and these sounded an awfully lot like shortbread.

But I thought I'd take a chance, especially since these buttery cookies contain coconut, lime zest, and coriander. Definitely more exotic than your average shortbread.

I doubled the lime zest and rubbed it, with sugar, between my fingers before adding it to the dough. This made the batter taste so good. I kept sneaking little spoonfuls of it. It tasted so fresh and tropical! The recipe also called for macadamia nuts, although I left these out.

I did find that, even though I rolled out the cookies exactly to specifications, they ended up cooking much faster than Dorie said. The cookies weren't supposed to colour at all but they had browned quite a bit by the time I got them out of the oven. I should have been watching them more carefully, but I didn't. Oh, well!

I also thought that the baked cookies were much less flavourful than the batter, although I suppose that's to be expected. But since the batter was somebody-take-this-mixer-bowl-away-from-me delicious, I was still a bit disappointed at the loss of flavour.

But you know what? These grew on us. We weren't overly impressed at first but kept snacking on them and liking them more with time. Suddenly the cookie jar is almost empty and I find myself wanting more.

Next time, though, I'm quadrupling the lime zest and adding more coriander.

Thanks for the selection, Jayne! You can visit her blog for the recipe.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Prosciutto, Blue Cheese, and Fig Jam Sandwiches

I'm all for regular sandwiches - BLTs, ham and cheese, grilled cheese, tuna, club - you name it, I'm game. But sometimes it's fun to make sandwiches that are a little more gourmet.

On a day trip to wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake, my brother made sandwiches very similar to these for us all to snack on - prosciutto sandwiches with blue cheese and store-bought fig preserves.

It was delicious, and I shamelessly hijacked the recipe and replaced the store-bought preserves with a variation on Giada de Laurentiis' fig jam. The jam is a mixture of dried figs, simple syrup, brandy, and hazelnuts. I skipped the brandy, replaced the hazelnuts with walnuts, and halved the recipe. Slathered on a long dinner roll, topped with blue cheese and prosciutto and then toasted, it is a seriously tasty sandwich, though definitely not meant for a child's palate.

Prosciutto, Blue Cheese, and Fig Jam Sandwich
Makes 1 (multiply accordingly)

1 large dinner roll, cut in half length-wise
3 slices prosciutto
1-2 tbsp. blue cheese (or to taste)
1-2 tbsp. fig jam, recipe follows (or to taste)

Fig Jam
Makes enough for at least 4 sandwiches - freeze what you don't use in a small container, or refrigerate it if you'll be making the sandwich again later in the week.
3 dried figs, halved
1/4 cup simple syrup, recipe follows
1/8 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Place a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the figs and simple syrup. Bring the mixture up to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Place the fig mixture and the walnuts in a food processor or blender and blend, pulsing a few times, until pureed. Set aside.

Simple Syrup
1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar

In a small saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Take pan off heat and cool the syrup. Any extra cooled syrup can be saved in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Assemble the sandwich
Spread fig jam on one half of dinner roll. Top with blue cheese. Place the fig jam- and blue cheese-dotted bread, face up, in a toaster oven at 350F until the blue cheese begins to melt, about two minutes. Alternatively, you can do this in a regular oven, and if you're making more than two sandwiches, you'll have no other choice.

Remove the bread from the oven and spread the hot blue cheese evenly across the surface of the bread. It should spread very easily.

Top with prosciutto slices and the other half of bread. Place back in oven and continue to bake for about 5 minutes, until sandwich is thoroughly warmed and bread is toasted. Cut sandwich in half, width-wise. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Blueberry Crumb Cake

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie selection, via Sihan of Befuddlement, gave us an opportunity to try out Dorie's take on a classic: Blueberry Crumb Cake.

Because Baking: From My Home to Yours is such a massive tome, it's been my hope that enough of the recipes will be successful that the cookbook can be my go-to resource when I'm looking for a classic recipe. Sometimes the book falls flat of my expectations - I still need to use a different recipe for Iles Flottantes, for example. And other times, Dorie's versions of classics are exactly what I hoped for. In the future, when I want to make sugar cookies, I'll be using Dorie's recipe.

So when Blueberry Crumb Cake was chosen, I was looking forward to seeing which category the recipe would fall under: new go-to recipe, or disappointment -- is that too harsh?

Now, first of all, because I live on my own and cake doesn't tend to keep very well, I tend to shy away from cake recipes. Generally if a cake is chosen for Tuesdays With Dorie, I'm skipping that week. This is bound to change in September when my internship ends and I finally, happily, move back to my university home and the hungry boyfriend and roommates that it contains. For now, I figured that Blueberry Crumb Cake Muffins are decidedly easier to scale down, so that was the route I took. I ended up halving the recipe, eating some, sharing some, and freezing the rest.

The batter was perfectly spiced with cinnamon and fresh nutmeg. Yum. I love a well-spiced batter. Fresh lemon zest was also mixed in, which added a brightness to the flavour.

As I spooned the batter into the muffin cups, I was a bit concerned. It really wasn't like a typical thin batter - it was like a thick paste. This is generally not a good sign when it comes to cake, although Dorie did mention that this batter would be thick. Luckily, my concerns were unfounded.

I decided to forgo the nuts in the crumb topping because I really, really don't like nuts in baked goods. I read that a lot of other bakers had issues with the crumb topping turning into a melted, buttery mess, but I somehow managed to escape this fate.

I baked the muffins for a bit less than half of the time suggested for the full cake and was impressed with the final result: a spicy, lemony blueberry-flecked batter and a light, crunchy crumb topping.

Definitely a go-to recipe. For a copy of the recipe, visit Sihan. Thanks for stopping by! See you next week when I'll be baking Coconut Butter Thins with lime and coriander.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Baked Salmon with Sweet and Spicy Honey-Dijon Sauce

Salmon is easily my favourite fish to cook with. It's very versatile and pairs well with so many flavours. It also lends itself very well to different ethnic genres of cooking. Soy sauce, mirin, and brown sugar make for a delicious Asian marinade. Or you could use yogurt and spices to create an Indian Tandoori-style salmon. Or just brush on a maple glaze and grill the salmon on cedar planks for a very Canadian meal. A few days ago, I made salmon with a very classic flavour combination - honey and mustard.

Equal parts honey and dijon mustard are combined with a bit of fresh lemon, some garlic and dill, and a healthy dose of spicy cayenne pepper. Some of the sauce is reserved (for serving later) while the rest is poured over the salmon, which is baked until it's light pink and flaky. The resulting flavour is sweet, tangy, and spicy enough to keep things interesting.

Baked Salmon with Sweet and Spicy Honey-Dijon Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Robin Miller

4 salmon fillets (typically 6-8 oz.)
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 minced clove garlic (or 1 tsp. garlic powder)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh dill (or 1 tbsp. dried dill)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place aluminum foil in a baking pan or shallow baking dish. Spray with cooking spray or grease very lightly with oil. Place salmon in prepared pan or dish.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, honey, water, lemon juice, cayenne, and garlic. Remove 1/2 cup of the sauce and set aside. Pour the remaining sauce over the salmon fillets in the pan. Roast the salmon until fork-tender, about 15 minutes (check after 10 if your salmon is thin).

Stir the dill into the reserved mustard sauce. Taste and season as necessary, adding more cayenne pepper if necessary. Serve the salmon hot with the reserved mustard sauce on top.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Soup

In Ontario (my province), hard alcohol is sold via a government-owned corporation, the LCBO or Liquor Control Board of Ontario. Because liquor is sold under a monopoly, this means that liquor prices in my province are known to be quite high. The trade-off, however, is that we also get a free magazine called Food and Drink with our purchases. Food and Drink is packed with tempting recipes and alcohol pairings, and whenever a new issue comes out, I always make sure I grab an extra one for my mom. Perhaps it's just my family, but my mom, my two brothers, and I are always excited to see a new issue of Food and Drink available. I'm sure it's not helping prices at the LCBO go down, but it is a fantastic magazine, so I don't mind.

This recipe, Spicy Black Bean and Corn Soup, is from a recent edition of Food and Drink. And it's wonderful. It relies on a few cupboard staples (black beans, canned tomatoes, frozen or canned corn, tomato paste) mixed with spices and a bit of fresh produce but tastes fresh and filling. It's a healthy and flavourful Tex-Mex style soup.

This soup is fantastic served with cheese quesadillas. Spread a couple spoonfuls of salsa over a six-inch tortilla. Sprinkle on shredded cheese, chopped green onions, and top with another tortilla. Then cook the quesadilla in a bit of melted margarine in a frying pan over medium heat until it's nicely browned and the cheese is melting. Together, the soup and quesadillas make for a perfect combination.

Spicy Black Bean and Corn Soup
Via Food and Drink Magazine

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups onion, finely diced
2 cups red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 tsp. jalapeno pepper finely diced, seeds removed
1 tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups frozen corn, thawed and rinsed
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onion, red pepper, and jalapeno for 5 minutes or until softened. Add garlic, oregano, cumin, and chili powder and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add tomato paste, cook for 3 minutes while breaking up with a spoon. Add diced tomatoes, and cook for 5 minutes more.

Add beans, corn and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, lower heat and cover. Simmer for 45 minutes until all the vegetables are tender. Just before serving, stir in cilantro if using.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Baked Semolina Gnocchi

This weekend, we're heading to our hometown to attend an annual seafood dinner at a local Italian club. It's a tradition his family has followed for over five years, and something that I've been able to enjoy for what will now be three years in a row.

If you're a fan of seafood, this dinner is like heaven. Seafood soup, which is always a highlight, fritto misto (deep fried assorted seafood like shrimp and calamari), a fish and chicken course, and a pasta course, followed by dessert and coffee or tea. We're always completely stuffed by the end, although not quite so uncomfortable that we can't dance.

In preparation for going home for the weekend, I forgot to upload photos and recipes for some of the tasty meals that I've been cooking up lately. So I'm digging deep in my draft archives to bring you this recipe, homemade Baked Semolina Gnocchi. Since I made and photographed this dish quite awhile ago, I do have to apologize for the picture. Don't let its poor quality distract you from how wonderful this recipe really is.

The gnocchi (pronounced en-yawk-ee, not no-kee) you'll typically find in the fresh pasta section of the supermarket is made with potatoes, while these gnocchi are made with the semolina flour that's typically used to make other pastas. These gnocchi also aren't made into little dumplings; instead, they're cut into small discs with a cookie cutter.

Because semolina gnocchi, unlike potato gnocchi, doesn't require baking potatoes first, the dough comes together relatively quickly. After the dough has been cut into discs and chilled for almost half an hour -- which, incidentally, gives you plenty of time to make a salad and alleviate some of your guilt about the rich ingredients in the dish -- the gnocchi are arranged side by side, splashed with a bit of heavy cream, sprinkled with parmesan, and dotted with butter before being baked in the oven until cooked through and nicely browned.

Baked Semolina Gnocchi
Slightly adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 quart whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black better pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 1/2 to 2 cups (00-grade) semolina flour
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Heavy cream (about 1/3 of a cup)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Grease a small baking sheet with 1 teaspoon of the butter and set aside. Butter a piece of parchment paper the same size as the baking sheet with 1/2 teaspoon of the butter and set aside, buttered side-up. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan with 1 teaspoon of butter and set aside.

Combine the milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a medium, heavy pot. Bring to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of the semolina, and whisk constantly until the mixture begins to thicken. Lower the heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring constantly with a heavy, wooden spoon, adding the remaining semolina flour 1/4 cup at a time, about 12 minutes. The mixture should be very stiff and thick. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the semolina mixture to the eggs and whisk well to incorporate. Add the eggs to the remaining semolina mixture and stir as hard as possible to blend. Add 1/4 cup of the cheese and stir well to blend. Turn out the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and using an off-set cake spreader or rubber spatula, spread across the bottom. Place the buttered parchment paper directly on the batter. Spread the batter evenly across the pan and smooth the top. Refrigerate until cooled, 20 to 25 minutes.

Using a 1" round cookie cutter or, in a pinch, the mouth of a small glass, cut the dough into circles. Dip the cookie cutter or glass in hot water as necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Lay the pieces in rows in the prepared 9-inch pan, shingling them to fit. Pour a bit of heavy (whipping) cream over the gnocchi. You can eyeball this part, adding cream to your own tastes, although 1/3 of a cup is a good guideline. Dot the top with the remaining butter and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake until the top begins to brown and the gnocchi are puffed, about 25 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie: Lemon, Clove, and Vanilla Cup Custard

This week's Tuesdays With Dorie pick, from Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles, is a bit misleading. It's called Lemon Cup Custard, except it's not very lemony. As a matter of fact, it's not very custardy, either. A more appropriate name would be flan with a hint of lemon. That's not to say I didn't end up enjoying the recipe. I just didn't enjoy it as it was written.

The custard (or flan) is made by steeping hot milk with lemon zest and, in my case, cloves. The hot milk is then carefully mixed with four eggs and a bit of sugar, then strained into custard cups and baked in a water bath until set.

Half-way through the milk steeping process, I decided to read the P&Q section at Tuesdays With Dorie. That's the weekly thread where TWD bakers get to ask each other questions about the weekly recipe and offer up suggestions. I'm glad I did read it - otherwise, I would have proceeded with the recipe, unaware of what I was up against. A lot of TWD bakers took issue with the egginess of the custard, as well as its relative blandness - particularly its lack of lemony flavour. I steeped the lemon zest and cloves in the milk for a full hour, double the length recommended in the recipe. It was still too bland, so I added a ton of vanilla extract - more than I have ever added to a recipe before. About 2 tablespoons. It sounds like a lot, and it was, but the custard really needed it to be flavourful.

With these tweaks, I was quite happy with the recipe. The lemon flavour was faint, but the combination of vanilla and cloves really appealed to me, although my boyfriend wasn't quite as impressed. I do enjoy flan so I wasn't bothered by the recipe's slight egginess. I would make my version of the recipe again, but not the original. Thanks for the selection, Bridget! I enjoyed making something different.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pinkberry and New York City Pizza: Cafe Daniello's

During our trip to Philly and New York City, there were some things that we put on our absolutely-must-try list. Philly Cheesesteaks? Check. New York City pizza? Oh, yes.

Since my boyfriend is all about pizza, he took care of looking up reviews ahead of time and decided that we should visit Cafe Daniello's. We wanted a place that was known for amazing New York-style pizza but still offered the pizza in slices, since we knew we wouldn't want an entire pizza to ourselves (okay, we might want one, but knew we shouldn't order one). Daniello's sounded like it would fit the bill.

We walked to Daniello's from the Rockefeller Center, after a visit to Magnolia Bakery for some sugary cupcakes (more on that in a later post). On the way, I got distracted by a Pinkberry store and couldn't help but stop in for some pineapple-strawberry original Pinkberry. It's like frozen yogurt but different, and somehow, better. It's a little more tart and has this hint of a different flavour to it that I can't place. I had heard it was addictive, though, and I can definitely see why. It was seriously tasty.

So after eating a cupcake and then loading up on fruity frozen yogurt, you'd think my appetite would be gone, right? Well, it wasn't, and good thing, because Daniello's slices are big.

Of course, it's hard to tell, because they were so delicious that we greedily wolfed half of them down before realizing that -- oops! -- we forgot to take a picture. My apologies for the half-eaten pizza slices.

My boyfriend stuck to chicken pizza while I tried a favourite of mine, Pizza Margherita (slices of big bocconcini, fresh tomatoes, and basil). Both of our pizzas were delicious, and we were particularly taken by the crust. It was thin, crispy, and very flavourful. It tasted quite a bit like olive oil, to me, which is I think what made it so beautifully browned and flavourful.

Cafe Daniello's pizza is a must-eat. Although we didn't take advantage of the deal, when we visited you could get two huge slices of cheese pizza and a pop for $5. If you manage to get the same deal, it's a serious bargain. Our two big "gourmet" slices and a bottle of iced tea came to $11 after taxes, but were worth every penny.

Cafe Daniello's Pizzeria

1072 2nd Ave
New York, NY

Monday, March 2, 2009

Attention Twitter users!

I signed up for twitter a few months ago, and recently incorporated it into my blog so that you can see my updates (and hopefully follow me, so I can follow you, too).

There are just a few people that I'm currently following, however, I'd really like to expand my twitter network and see what my readers are tweeting about. If you're a twitter user, please leave your twitter username in the comments, or follow me on twitter and I'll follow you back.

Thanks, everyone!

  © Blogger templates 'Sunshine' by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP